Hooniverse Asks: What Car has History’s Greatest Hidden Headlights?

At one time here in the States the Feds required all new vehicles to light their way with sealed beam headlights. That meant two or four round or rectangular units with pretty much flat faces, not the best thing for cheating the wind and eking out that extra MPG. That all changed in the mid-eighties when Ford twisted the Government’s arm and brought American standards into reasonable parity with the rest of the world, allowing for composite headlights that could conform to body shape and cut through the air like you just do care.
Composite lights – in their seemingly infinite iterations – have been the norm ever since, which proved to be one more nail in the coffin of one of auto enthusiast’s most popular car features, the hidden headlight, or pop-up light. The death knell for the now-you-seem-em-now-you-don’t lights was the advent of daytime running lights in some jurisdictions, and the added cost and weight that doors and motors demand. Today, there isn’t a single new car around that offers the opportunity to hide its lights.
Why do we love hidden headlights? Who knows, it’s just a simple fact that they have long seemed special. What we want to know here is, which of those many, many cars with hidden lights you think was the most special. In your mind, what car had history’s greatest hidden lights?
Image: Wikipedia

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  1. P161911 Avatar

    Cizeta, because double decker headlights!

    1. jim Avatar

      I was going to nominate this. Nothing screams cocaine louder than a white Cizeta with the headlights up

    1. JayP Avatar

      Super Swampers on that Charger??

    1. pj134 Avatar

      Now if the next guy posts a 70 we hit the trifecta.

      1. Moparmann Avatar

        O.K. Here you go!! (c:

        1. Moparmann Avatar

          The ’67 was also really smooth! 🙂

          1. for_SCIENCE Avatar

            The ’67 is the better looking one IMHO.

  2. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    ’65 Riviera.

  3. P161911 Avatar

    C3 Corvettes are a personal favorite.

    1. David Avatar

      I remember watching TV with an elderly aunt and seeing one of these flip the lights open in a commercial or something. She thought it was a silly idea and asked me why the car was made that way. I told her it was for better aerodynamics. She thought for a moment and asked, “So it’s only aerodynamic in the daytime?”

      1. P161911 Avatar

        Fun fact, popping up the headlights also increases the radar detection range on the old C3 Vettes. In 1978 Car and Driver did a test and the Corvette was somewhat stealthy with a max detection range of just a few hundred feet. Most all the flat surface on the front of the car are severely angled, even the radiator. The headlights aren’t.

  4. Fred Talmadge Avatar
    Fred Talmadge

    Early Elans. They were so cool they would hide when ever you lost vacuum. Like cresting a hill on power. Safety became an issue on the later models and then they failed open, which just isn’t as cool.

  5. Krautwursten Avatar

    Curtesy mention of the longitudinal axis rotating lights on the Opel GT.

    1. theskig Avatar


  6. Sjalabais Avatar

    Hidden grille + hidden headlights + hidden Swedish reliability = Hide-o-trifecta?

    1. Krautwursten Avatar

      And don’t forget the frameless full glass hatch.

    2. Frank T. Cat Avatar
      Frank T. Cat

      A 480 is on my ‘if I had the money I’d import one’ list.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        People in the know say the good ones are all in collector’s hands already. The rest can be had cheap. Quite a lot of electric and turbo issues with these, and they have the ultra-utilitarian dashboard of the 4-series:

  7. Alff Avatar

    1967 Camaro RS, 1969 Charger and the Cougar above are among my favorites.

  8. P161911 Avatar

    C2 Corvettes are the only ones I can think of off hand that do a full 180 rotation like this.

    1. Manic_King Avatar

      C4, too?

      1. P161911 Avatar

        I guess, sort of, but they always seem to be more the traditional pop up style instead of the hidden and contain a major body styling line.

    2. 0A5599 Avatar

      66-67 Charger headlights flip over similarly.

  9. Manic_King Avatar

    Hidden foglights? Not really foglights, probably spotlights.

  10. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar

    I always loved the Cougar. Plus, sequential taillights…

  11. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar
    1. salguod Avatar

      Came to post this. My grandfather owned a 1937 812, you raised the lights by turning individual cranks on either end of the dash.

  12. P161911 Avatar

    928 headlights have always look awkward to me. Doesn’t matter if they are up or down, from the front or the side.

    1. Jfalcon Avatar

      Dude, I love those headlights, and the way they sort of spiral out of the hood? Killer feature on a killer Porsche.

      1. P161911 Avatar

        The 928 is a car that the designer admits to being inspired by the AMC Pacer. http://ateupwithmotor.com/model-histories/porsche-928/ don’t get me wrong, they are probably my favorite Porsche, but I’m not really a fan of any Porsche.

        1. Jfalcon Avatar

          I could have easily lived the rest of my life without knowing that fact, and died a happy man.
          Pacer? Really?

          1. JayP Avatar

            I can see it.
            But the Pacer has the distinction of being Wheeler Dealer’s biggest flop.

  13. jim Avatar

    1953 Alfa Romeo B.A.T. 5 concept (skip to 0:22)

    1. jim Avatar

      Also the 1954 B.A.T. 7 (skip to 0:59)

    1. sporty88 Avatar

      Considering that Harley Earl used it as a driver for about 10 years after it finished on the show circuit, I think it should count.

  14. XRSevin Avatar

    De Soto. Always thought Chrysler should have done this across the board.

  15. Maymar Avatar

    Let’s not hide that the car has headlights, but let’s cover them up anyhow! Looks great for malaise era though.

  16. mdharrell Avatar

    The answer is, once again, Sonett Super Sport. This time, however, it is specifically the Super Sport that was temporarily rebodied to become the Facett, shown here on its own custom-fabricated chassis after the adjacent Super Sport itself had been converted back into a Super Sport:
    The headlights are stored under the hood and must manually be affixed for use, with their supports projecting through the slightly wider portions of the hood gap:

    1. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar


    2. Joe Dunlap Avatar
      Joe Dunlap

      Run that by me again? That made my head hurt…..

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        The white car was the green car after the green car was no longer the green car, but now the green car is back to being the green car, so the white car isn’t.

    1. Fuhrman16 Avatar

      Had a four door version in a similar yellow color back in high school. Gotta like vinyl-padded headlight covers.

  17. Citric Avatar

    I love the ’66 Riviera so much and the headlights are part of the reason.

  18. 0A5599 Avatar

    Chrysler 300 Hurst had some nice hidden headlights.

  19. ptschett Avatar

    No Superbird?!?
    Honestly though, I’m not a big fan of hidden lights unless they were being used to solve some aerodynamic problem of the sealed-beam age like the Superbird/Charger Daytona/Torino King Cobra, C3-C4 Vettes, 3rd generation Firebird, etc.
    I’m oddly drawn to the Sunbird GT of the latter half of the original J-car run. Why do its sealed beams need to be half-covered like an Alfa Romeo Montreal? I’m half thinking the answer was something like “we’re GM and we’re going to get back to 50% market share any day now with cutting edge cars like this.”

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